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Waving a WAND to boost spraying certainty

The Weather and Networked Data (WAND) system allows growers to plan their spraying operations with more certainty.
Photo: GRDC

Key points

  • WAND eliminates uncertainty around the presence or absence of hazardous surface temperature inversions
  • Using WAND can lead to an increase in available spray hours
  • Each WAND tower provides real-time data, updated every 10 minutes
  • WAND’s two-hour ‘nowcast’ takes the guesswork out of whether to start a job, refill tanks once a job has started, or stop work until conditions improve

Cereal and cotton grower Ben Watson has used Weather and Networked Data (WAND) to plan spraying operations for one winter and one summer season so far. And already it has become quite a handy tool in his toolkit.

WAND allows growers to distinguish between hazardous and non-hazardous surface temperature inversions in real time. This eliminates uncertainty so that better-informed spray decisions can be made.

The WAND network provides real-time data that identifies and measures the presence of hazardous surface temperature inversions as well as the other common weather data such as wind speed and direction, temperature and delta T. This free network is available to all growers and spray applicators and can be accessed via a web browser on smartphones, tablets and computers.

The technology is the result of six years of collaborative research by GRDC and the Cotton Research and Development Corporation. They have partnered with Goanna Ag to build and maintain a network of 100 towers throughout grain and cotton growing regions in Central and Southern Queensland and New South Wales.

Ben, who grows wheat, faba beans and cotton at Spring Plains north-west of Narrabri in NSW, says WAND helps ground-truth what he sees in the paddock and is easy to use.

He says he has been lucky enough to have a tower built on the farm. “But, to be honest, if we didn’t have one, I’d pay to put one in privately. It’s been great.”

Like many grain and cotton growers GroundCover® spoke to, Ben points to a series of serious spray drift events that occurred during the 2022-23 summer. In particular, those that occurred on the eastern Darling Downs in late 2022 are another reason to use WAND.

That large-scale spray drift event affected up to 30,000 hectares of cotton and caused damage worth millions of dollars.

“Anything that helps us prevent spray drift events is very useful,” he says. On his own farm, Ben tends to start planning for spraying about a week in advance. However, he checks WAND on his smartphone daily to confirm when it is best to spray.

“Inversions are short-lived, as opposed to strong westerly winds, so it pays to check WAND daily and work around any hazardous inversions.”

GRDC chemical regulation manager Gordon Cumming says WAND provides critical data to support planning and spraying operations.

“It’s the season of summer spraying so I’d encourage anyone who has not tried WAND to have a look.”

Each WAND tower provides real-time data, updated every 10 minutes.

“WAND’s two-hour ‘nowcast’ takes the guesswork out of whether to start a job, refill tanks once a job has started, or knock-off until conditions improve,” Mr Cumming says.

“Pesticides are an important component of modern farming and play a major role in maintaining high productivity. Yet, unintended spray drift remains a concern to industry and the broader community.

“When spray droplets are captured and transported in hazardous surface temperature inversions, they can affect agricultural enterprises and other sensitive areas tens of kilometres away from the site of application.”

As insightful and helpful as WAND is, Mr Cumming says, it is important that best-practice spray methods are followed. These include following all label directions, monitoring and recording weather at the application site, using appropriate nozzles to provide the required spray quality, and operating at appropriate ground speed and boom height.

More information: Goanna Ag website; WAND login; WAND Quick Reference guide

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